LIFE: James Ella Irving
Description: This is the special program for the event celebrating the 75th birthday of James Ella Irving.
Date: March 17, 2007
Original Format: Special Event Program
Relation: Historic Little Rock Missionary Baptist Church
Contributor: Kamilah Stinnett
Transcript: Crown Her with Many Crowns
For the African-American churchgoing women hats are not mere fashion statements they are integral expression of faith and cultural identity. A hat-wearing Black woman is confident, composed, and totally sure of herself as she is adorned in a hat that uniquely "speaks for her". See if you can "hear" what James Ella and her hats are saying.
It is our distinct pleasure to have you celebrate our Mom's 75th birthday. Your presence here tells us that you love and appreciate the life she's lived. She's quick to give testimony about "the God I serve". She knows Him well as she has sought His daily counsel to get through the vicissitudes of life.
Mom(Grandma)raised us "by the Book". As a result, we've grown up "in the fear and admonition of the Lord". She trained us up in the Way we should go. When we got old enough, we accepted that Way for ourselves.
Because our Mom is worthy of all the honor and praise we could give her, we decided to give her flowers while she could yet enjoy them. Join with us during "This Is Your Life" to share stories of how she impacted you life.
We proudly call her "Blessed". With Love, we call her "Mom"
Happy 75th Birthday!
Wilma Joyce, David, and your granddaughter Tanisha
To Serve This Present Age
Mrs. James Ella Irvin has been an active member of the Historic Little Rock Missionary Baptist Church for 27 years. She has been a dedicated servant and leader in several auxiliaries including Supervisor of the Angelic Usher Board and Vice President of the Nurses Guild. She has served her church family faithfully in many other leadership capacities and special appointments by the Pastor such as General Chairperson of the Women's Division, member of the Renovation Campaign Steering Committee, and chairperson for the 65th and 70th Church Anniversaries. Mrs. Irvin continues to serve as Noonday Bible Study Bus Coordinator. She is Past President of Usher Board #1 and Coordinator Emerita of the Usher Ministries.
Prior to coming to Little Rock, Mrs. Irvin was an active member at the Messiah Missionary Baptist Church under the leadership of the late Rev. T.C. Simmons for over 20 years. During her time at messiah, she was president of the Nurses Guild, member of the Progressive Usher Board, and Supervisor for the Young People's Usher Board. The skills she learned in church ushering prepared her for the future when she'd provide leadership for a churchwide usher ministry.
Mrs. Irvin serves God by serving the wider community. Realizing that completion of the master plan for Kettering High School was being shelved in favor of completing schools in other areas of the city, she got involved with the Kettering Project Advisory Committee. It took 10 years to bring the project to fruition during which she was the chairperson most of those years. Under her leadership, Kettering High School received lighted outdoor basketball and tennis courts, an Olympic size natatorium, and a performing arts center.
In 1981, the performing arts center was named and dedicated to the school's first principal, Dr. Leonard Sain. With her work finished, she retired from the advisory committee.
Mrs. Irvin also retired from the Department of Defense Contract Administration after 37 years of service. She is active in her community and serves as the Trip Coordinator and Treasurer of the Tenant's Council at Bicentennial Towers Senior Housing Complex. Mrs. Irvin is a loving mother of two ministers of the gospel, Rev. David Irvin and Rev. Joyce Irvin Harris. She has four grandchildren, two step grandchildren, one great granddaughter, and six step great grandchildren.
Mrs. Irvin professes living a productive and abundant Christian life by the Word of God as written in Psalm 121:1-"I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help." (KJV)
God Is First, But My Family's a Close Second
(Reprinted from November 1991)
(You Walk in the door and to your left atop a television console are photos of children and grandchildren. The house feels warm with the love of family.)
LIFE: I see you're surrounded by family.
JEI: Very much so. God is first, by my family's a close second. I guess I get that from my dad. His name's James Rogers, but everyone calls him "Jim". He raised my brother and I with the understanding that no one came before family. My dad was day-laborer in the foundry. He moved us from Memphis in 1947 so we would not grow up in segregation. His desire was for my mother to be home while he worked. Dad passed away in 1986. He made a very good life for us.
LIFE: You mentioned your mom and your brother. I didn't notice one of her.
JEI: My mom, I now call her "Miss Bessie", was not one for snapshots. However, I do have one of her and my brother. It's not one of the best since I'd just caught in the rain on my way to her church. Here we are with my brother, Jonas. My mom was an excellent homemaker. She not only raised my brother and I, but she kept my children while their father and I worked. After the children were in school full time, she got involved with her church missionary society. She's been president of her mission circle for many years. In fact, that's where she is now. Otherwise, she'd be here.
LIFE: I see lots of kids photos around the house. Could you tell me about them?
JEI: Certainly! All these pictures were taken a while back. Let's see, this is my son, David, with his family. David's my quiet child. Very sensitive. My daughter-in-law's name is Debbie and my grandson, Dominic. Dominic loves to cook, even at his young age. I would not be surprised if he decided to become a chef.
My son has two more children with his first wife, Phyllis. His oldest, Tanisha, is my first grandchild. She's a graduate of Howard University. Her brother is my son's namesake, David Wordell, II.
(I encourage Mrs. Irvin to continue. This little lady is my first great-grandchild, Christina. Chrissy is Grandma's baby! She's just like her Daddy. She looks life him and acts like him.
(Lifting the photo), Quenton is my youngest grandson. He's not my son's child, but he's Tanisha and David's younger brother so he belongs to Grandma, too.
LIFE: So the young lady is your daughter?
JEI: Yes, this is my first-born, Wilma Joyce. Very much like her father; she's into everything and will talk to a sign post. She's a minister at a church in Boston as well as a chaplain in the Naval Reserve.
LIFE: Your family rally is a close second to your relationship with God. You are as much in them as they are a part of you.
JEI: (Mrs. Irvin smiles humbly). I give God the praise for whatever I was able to instill in them. I assure you, I could not have done anything without Him